To enable us to continue supplying the growing world population with enough protein in the future, fish production will need to rise. In the aquaculture of the future, we will need to learn the lessons of the new concept of circular agriculture, Geert Wiegertjes said at his inauguration as Professor of Aquaculture and Fisheries at Wageningen University & Research on 16 May.
At present, fisheries and aquaculture account for twenty percent of the animal protein consumed by three billion people. The proportion of farmed fish in that figure is growing. “And it needs to,” Professor Wiegertjes says. “Especially when you consider that the world population will have grown to 9.5 billion by 2050. All those people need protein. But it is not possible to catch even bigger quantities of fish in a sustainable way. And that means that growth in fish consumption can only be achieved by expanding and refining aquaculture.”
Wiegertjes believes that it is important to learn from the Green Revolution in agriculture, a process that started in the 1960s and brought about enormous growth in agricultural production across the globe. But we have since become much more aware of the downsides. The public image of intensive farming is under pressure and people are concerned about its implications for the environment, nature, the countryside and animal welfare.
Wageningen University & Research is committed to a shift towards circular agriculture. One of the principles of this is that livestock should no longer be fed products that can also be eaten by people. This circular principle can also be applied in the aquaculture of the future. Wiegertjes: “To avoid what is known as ‘feed-food competition’ in aquaculture, fish should no longer be fed fish but products like insects, fish scraps, seaweed or fatty acids from microalgae.”
To develop the necessary expertise in this area, the researchers at Aquaculture and Fisheries are working closely with other WUR groups such as Animal Production Systems and Animal Breeding & Genomics.
New online portal W-ARE
Geert Wiegertjes’ ambition is to pool the knowledge on aquaculture being built up at Wageningen University & Research and make it more widely accessible. To kick-start this, he will set up a new online portal under his own initiative: W-ARE, Wageningen – Aquaculture Research & Education. This online platform, which will be launched in 2019, will be a central point of access to Wageningen University & Research’s research, chair groups, news, initiatives, programmes, facilities and teaching in the area of aquaculture.